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  • 2014 Fiat 500L

#6

in Upscale Small Cars

MSRP: $19,195 - $24,395
Invoice: $19,050 - $23,503
MPG: 25 City / 33 Hwy
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Fiat 500L Performance

Reviewers agree that the Fiat 500L is a practical and fun choice that offers a smooth, capable ride.

  • "The 2014 500L borrows the engine and some suspension bits from the 500 Abarth, though in the 500L, the aim is less performance than comfort and capability." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The Mini is also more rewarding to drive thanks to better handling and more direct steering. Where the Fiat 500L excels is being very usable in everyday life without losing one iota of the brand's unique flair." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Push too much, though, and the 500L pushes right back, shoving the nose wide in tight turns. The front-drive wheels shoulder 61 percent of the wagon's weight, so we're not exactly shocked by this behavior, and we doubt many 500L owners will ever drive their cars hard enough to care." -- Edmunds
  • "Acceleration was brisk, even when passing on the highway, thanks to that Abarth engine. The six-speed manual was both responsive and comfortable, with easy throws." -- USA Today

Acceleration and Power

The base 500L comes with a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed dual clutch (automated manual) transmission is available and premium gas is recommended. According to the EPA, the 500L averages 24/33 mpg city/highway with an automated manual transmission, which is average for the class. If you’re looking for better fuel economy, consider the Volkswagen Golf, which gets 30/42 mpg city/highway with its diesel engine.

Some reviewers say the 500L performs well as a daily driver, passing easily on the highway with gratifying bursts of power. However, others write that while the 500L is quick from a stop, its weight becomes apparent if you floor the accelerator. Test drivers say the manual transmission is smooth and responsive, but others point out that an awkwardly long knob makes shifting less fun. The automated manual transmission is generally described as smooth and precise, though one reviewer says that transitions between gears can be sloppy.

  • "In the stoplight-to-stoplight suburban crawl, the 500L is agreeably responsive, thanks in part to careful tuning of the throttle calibration in wagons with the dual-clutch transmission. But if you go to the carpet with the right pedal, the bigger Fiat's power-to-weight ratio is apparent." -- Edmunds 
  • "For us, the transmission of choice is the six-speed manual. Although the throws are long and the clutch is overly light, it's much more rewarding to drive than the DCT. … The three-pedal setup adds a dose of fun to what is otherwise a fairly average driving experience and helps to add to the Italianitá of the Fiat mystique." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The clutch has a nice linear feel with a solid engagement point, but shifts are too long and the gearbox feels rubbery. The manual isn't especially fun to use, and it doesn't add much to the car. (By comparison, I got to drive the 5-speed manual 500 Abarth as well, and it's vastly better.)" -- Jalopnik
  • "Sporting the same engine that makes Fiat's Abarth so much fun, the 500L has a certain pep that is lacking in some of its competitors. There's plenty of power to make the Fiat a competent, capable everyday subcompact family car. You'll have maximum fun with the six-speed manual, while the dual-clutch automatic seem more confused, hunting for gears on occasion." -- Popular Mechanics

Handling and Braking

Auto writers say the Fiat 500L handles adequately, managing to bridge the gap between a comfortable cruiser and a sporty crossover. One reviewer says the Fiat 500L’s strong brakes offer excellent stopping power. Several critics say that while the steering is adequate, it lacks road feel, though one notes that steering feel is better at highway speeds. Reviewers praise the 500L’s premium shocks and taut suspension and say that it handles road bumps better than the Mini Countryman. However, most reviewers write that the Countryman is more composed around curves and a bit more fun to drive.

  • "Standard on all 500L models are 12-inch rotors up front and 10.4-inch rotors in the rear, both with single-pistons. They actually do an excellent job of stopping the car. They're nice and grippy with a surprisingly strong pedal feel. No complaints in that department - it's a sporty car, and the brakes get it done in the USA, baby." -- Jalopnik
  • "The 500L also shares the Abarth's Koni frequency selective dampening, except it's been applied to all four corners. This helps smooth bumps, but like the 500, the taller 500L feels topsy-turvy around curves." -- Motor Trend
  • "On the curvy back roads of rural Maryland, the 500L felt light on its feet, but a little squishy. The Countryman we drove hugged the road better, but also crashed over bumps harder. The 500L uses an electric power-steering system, which takes some road feel out, but we didn't get to push the car too hard anyway since the roads were still soaked from recent thunderstorms. If your drive consists solely of curvy, rolling roads, the Countryman would be more fun. But in mixed driving, the Fiat is far more agreeable." -- AutoWeek
  • "Cornering is secure and there isn't nearly as much body roll as we'd expected from this mini family hauler. Some of this is attributable to the general stiffness of its platform and the suspension's relatively sporty state of tune. But the 500L's excellent ride quality also owes to the doubtlessly expensive Koni dampers, which provide two damping rates to cope with low- and high-frequency impacts. ... Combine that with generally agreeable responses and fine on-center feel from the wagon's electric-assist power steering, and the 500L will hang in there for sharp city corners and wide-radius back-road curves." -- Edmunds
  • "… the 500L rides damn well for a smallish hatchback. It rides on par with the Focus and better than the firm Countryman (or the outgoing Mazda3, for that matter). Good steering feel on the highway adds to its composure. There, the 500L settles in for comfortable, low-assist stability that's easy to manage." -- Cars.com
Review Last Updated: 5/12/14

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